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desayunoencama in re_mused

Rettelings versus originals

There's an article in TIME on how fractured fairy tales are bigger business than traditional retellings of classic tales:

I had meant to post about this after reading an op-ed piece in FOREWORD magazine, by a children's book editor complaing of not being able to find a traditional version instead of a fractured retelling of certain fairy tales to buy for her kids, but it wasn't online and I can't find where I put the issue...

A quote from the TIME piece:
Someday the kids will read the original tale and wonder why the stupid straw-house pig doesn't just hop onto the next bookshelf. Likewise, Shrek reimagines Puss in Boots as a Latin tomcat--but what kid today even reads Puss in Boots in the original?

This is the new world of fairy tales: parodied, ironized, meta-fictionalized, politically adjusted and pop-culture saturated. (Yes, the original stories are still out there, but they don't have the same marketing force behind them: the Happy Meals, action figures, books, games and other ancillary-revenue projects.)


I was just logging on to link to that article!

Found myself disagreeing most with the author's conclusion that "Old-school fairy tales, after all, are boring to us, not the kids." And the tension in the popular culture between "canon" fairy tales and riffs on them isn't exactly a recent development. Rocky and Bullwinkle, anyone?

Are traditional fairy tales really so hard to find?
<saves the article for class next fall>

It's a complex question, that for me brings up the perennial and never-answered question of, why fairy tales? What's their social purpose? What function(s) do they serve, and how does that compare to what the satires do? How badly would this make Bruno Bettelheim's head explode?

I found it interesting that they mentioned Stardust; I thought of us about half a paragraph sooner, and then grinned to see that the writer's thoughts had gone in the same direction. I've written a couple of papers already on "original fairy tales" -- things with the structure and/or appearance of folktales, but not based on specific existing stories. Stardust can be mapped out according to Propp, though it's more complicated than a normal tale would be.
I should also add that I was interested by the way the writer brought up problematic gender roles and the like.
Had to respond to this:
"But those parodies had a dominant fairy-tale tradition to rebel against. The strange side effect of today's meta-stories is that kids get exposed to the parodies before, or instead of, the originals."

When I worked in public school libraries -- for seven years -- I often had to read or tell traditional folk tales, fairy tales, nursery rhymes before delving into fractured versions. Many kids either didn't know them at all or didn't know them well enough to understand what was funny or ironic or interesting about the fractured version.

January 2008


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